(This is a contributed post)
It’s good news! After working hard to market your services, you have found a potential new client, and they are ready to meet with you to talk about a project. This is an exciting prospect, whether it’s your first ever client or one of many, but whatever the case, you do need to make a positive first impression. If you do anything to screw up the meeting, they might decide you aren’t the best fit for them after all, and they might take their business elsewhere.
Let’s ensure that doesn’t happen! To ensure a successful first meeting (by which we mean you walk away with a new client), consider the following suggestions.
#1: Make sure you look the part
Your professional appearance is vital, so despite your temptation to turn up in your scruffy jeans and trainers, consider wearing something that will instil more confidence in your prospective client. Visit those fashion stores that sell professional attire if your wardrobe is lacking, and check here if you need some stylish new eyewear. A decent pair of shoes will stand you in good stead too, and so will a well-designed briefcase to carry into the meeting with you.
When you look the part, two things will happen.
So, make the effort, as it could make a big difference to how the meeting plays out.
#2: Hold the meeting at a convenient place
It might be that you’re meeting the client at their place of business, in which case, fine. You might also be holding the meeting online. However, if the client is expected to travel to you, try to make life easier for them. If your home or business premises are at a difficult to reach location, consider renting office space somewhere more central. Alternatively, meet in a quiet cafe or bar, or any other venue where a meeting is possible. By making the effort to make life easier for your client, you will do much to make them favour you.
#3: Get together everything you need for the meeting
Will you need your laptop? A pen? A notepad? Will you need to preload your portfolio onto your computer? Will the client have paperwork to sign? If you forget something vital, you might get flustered at the meeting, and the client will be unimpressed that you are unprepared. So, make a checklist of everything you need for the meeting, and get everything ready in advance.
#4: Arrive on time
If you are meeting the client at their place of business, you don’t want to get there too early. They might not be ready for you, and your early presence might be an inconvenience for them. You don’t want to be late either, be it at their premises or any other meeting space. So, find out where you need to get to, plan your route, and make every effort to arrive on time. Of course, if you do get there early, go for a walk, get your head together, and look over any notes you have made if you need to.
#5: Enjoy a little small talk
Yes, you’re going to a business meeting, but that doesn’t mean your first few minutes have to be super serious. Spend a few minutes chatting about inoffensive topics, such as the weather or a recent sports event, and get to know your prospective client a little. This will put them at ease and it might put you at ease too, especially if you’re feeling nervous about the meeting. Be careful, however, as there are some topics you don’t want to broach. Politics is probably a big no-no, and so are intimate questions about the client’s personal life. Be tactful, and avoid any topic that could offend.
#6: Don’t come across as desperate
Yes, you might be in desperate need of the client’s business, but you don’t need to beg them for it. If you come across as overly keen, the client might start to doubt you. Instead, try to give over the impression that you’re in demand (without sounding arrogant), as the client might take you more seriously. And if you are in demand, you could even use this to your advantage, especially if any of your other clients are high profile.
#7: Listen to the client’s needs
When you eventually start talking about business, don’t do all of the talking. You might come across as overbearing, especially if what you’re talking about doesn’t put the client’s needs in context. Let them talk to you about what it is they want, and only interrupt when you want them to clarify or repeat something. People enjoy being listened to, and they also demand it in a professional context, so be polite and courteous, as you will gain their approval.
On this note, be mindful about your body language. If you slouch in your seat, fail to give eye contact, or act in any type of distracted manner, the client won’t feel listened to. So, check out these body language tips for some useful advice, and give your client the attention they deserve.
Be sure to listen well too. If you were to respond in a way that didn’t correlate with what the client had said, it would be clear that your mind was elsewhere. So, consider honing your active listening skills before the meeting to improve your chances of success.
#8: Sell yourself to the client
After getting to know what the client’s needs are, you can start to sell your services to them. So, have a few success stories up your sleeve, especially those that relate to the services the client requires. Show them your portfolio too, talk about your previous projects, and let the client know about the skills and experiences you have gathered over the years. You don’t want to come across as arrogant, of course, but you don’t want to be shy either. Be confident and use this moment in the business meeting to let yourself shine!
#9: Anticipate the questions the client might ask you
There will be questions the client wants to ask you, so be ready for these before the meeting. They might include:
By anticipating these questions, you will be able to prepare yourself beforehand.
Of course, the client might also ask you a question you weren’t expecting. Think about the answer before blurting something out in error, and if you need time outside of the meeting to work out your answer, let the client know this. This is better than a rushed answer that is misjudged or dishonest, as the client might pick up on this.
#10: End the meeting positively
Whn the meeting has finished, ensure you part company on good terms, no matter the result. Thank them for their time, let them know that you have enjoyed meeting them, and leave them your business card. Hopefully, they will have decided to do business with you, but if not, be polite, ask them why they decided not to, and thank them for meeting you anyway.
First impressions count, so follow each of our suggestions. Even if you don’t win their business, they might still pass good word about you to others if you presented yourself well. Still, be bold and confident, and be optimistic. If you have what it takes to support the client, you can rock that meeting. Use our advice to improve your chances and seek the support of any friends you have in the business world if you need extra guidance.